EU considers €1 billion broadband investment

The European Commission is considering investing 1 billion (0.92 billion) in broadband to help spur the economy, as part of a larger stimulus plan across the European Union.

The move follows similar suggestions in the US and the UK to invest in networking infrastructure as part of a modern "New Deal" to pump more money into the faltering economy. A "Digital Britain" report, due to be delivered to parliament today, is expected to outline such possibilities in the UK.

The commission said it believes broadband could create one million jobs and boost the EU economy by 850 million by 2015.

"The extension and upgrading of high-speed internet infrastructure is an economic and social imperative," commission President Jos Manuel Barroso said in a statement.

Much like those plans discussed in the US and UK, the European Commission wants to spend the money extending high-speed internet to rural areas. According to the EU, 93 per cent of European's have access to such broadband connections, but that falls to 70 per cent for rural areas as low as 50 per cent in some countries.

He said the commission's goal is to ensure that all of the EU has high-speed broadband access by 2010, but admitted that rural areas would always be problematic. "This has direct social and economic consequences. That is why it is right to concentrate this action on rural areas and using the rural development instruments will allow for action on the ground to start quickly," Barroso said.

The broadband investment is just one part of a 5 billion package, which also includes 3.5 billion for green energy projects.